Come Back – the Embassy needs you – Edward. It was this message from the Prince of Wales in a 1925 cablegram to Ambrose, the band leader that finally persuaded him to return to England from New York. It must have been very flattering to have the heir to the British throne begging him to return to the Embassy nightclub with his band. Ambrose was in real-life, exactly as he was portrayed in a season four episode of Downton Abbey – an extremely popular band leader and violinist. He had been very much missed by the Prince while he was away from London. Only a year earlier Ambrose had left the Embassy Club for a much better offer to play at the Palais Royal in New York.
Born in the east end of London in 1896, Ambrose had divided his time between London and New York for several years before granting the Prince’s request. Eventually, after returning to the Embassy Club he moved on to the Mayfair Hotel in London where he remained for the following six years. He recorded many numbers with Decca, Brunswick and HMV helping to make him the most popular band leader of the era. Later he opened Ciro’s club and hired the legendary pianist Art Tatum and such talents as Ted Heath and Sylvester Ahola. He discovered Vera Lynn and much later Kathy Kirby.
Downton Abbey captures the glamour of this era in its scenes set in the Embassy Club and the viewer is given a fleeting glimpse of Ambrose as he plays his violin. Below are some recordings of how he sounded during the 1920s and 1930s.
If I had a Million Dollars was recorded for Decca at the Embassy Club in 1934
Dancing in the Dark was one of his popular tunes